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Legacy Community Health Sees Rise in Applications for HIV/AIDS Medications during Pandemic

Temporary changes in state requirements help more uninsured patients qualify.

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Legacy Community Health has seen a nearly 60 percent rise in applications for an HIV/AIDS medication program during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The full-service network of community medical clinics across the Greater Houston area has seen a 58.5 percent increase in the number of completed applications for the Texas HIV Medical Program (THMP) since mid-March, when statewide social-distancing restrictions were put in place to hinder the spread of COVID-19, according to a recent Legacy press release.   

Legacy’s pharmacy in Montrose has also seen a 50 percent increase in the number of HIV-positive patients filling their prescriptions through the state-funded AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP). Legacy says this is potentially due to the increase in uninsured people living with HIV, and because of less-restrictive qualification requirements due to COVID-19. 

“We are able to get and keep more patients in the program right now because of changes in the requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Ruston Taylor, senior director of Legacy’s pharmacy clinical services and outreach. “These numbers mean more people are seeking help in getting their HIV or AIDS medications right now.”

THMP provides HIV treatment to low-income Texans. To qualify for the medications, potential clients must apply for assistance and meet the state’s eligibility criteria. Once approved, a client receives medications at an assigned pharmacy in their community. In order for patients to remain active in the THMP program, they have to recertify their eligibility at least every six months after receiving approval. Patients who no longer qualify for program coverage must complete the full application again, requiring numerous pieces of documentation that can be difficult for many patients to obtain.

However, the THMP program has temporarily eased its documentation requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic. HIV-positive Texans who have lost their health insurance coverage can now complete an emergency application for medication assistance over the phone, with only the most basic supporting documents required.

THMP is also supplying patients with an extra month of medication for many prescriptions that were previously filled with a 30-day supply. 

These changes are critically important to ending the HIV epidemic, Taylor notes. “The more patients we have on HIV regimens that have undetectable HIV loads, the greater chance we have of decreasing new HIV diagnoses being transmitted during sex.” 

For more information about Legacy Community Health, visit https://www.legacycommunityhealth.org.

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Lourdes Zavaleta

Lourdes Zavaleta is the managing editor of OutSmart magazine.

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